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How to Fate 2: Telling a Story

Telling a story and making a hero are closely intertwined, especially in Fate, where your hero is made through a series of stories.

Remember the three components of making an interesting hero?

  1. Give a reason we should even care about the hero.
  2. Determine what the hero wants and doesn’t have.
  3. Determine what the hero is going to do about it.

Steps 2 and 3 are a story.

Jim Butcher and his teacher, Debbie Chester, list this as the SPOOC formula.

  • Situation: Something happens that kicks the hero into action.
  • Protagonist: Whose story is this?
  • Objective: What is the hero’s plan of action?
  • Opposition: Who is opposing the hero?
  • Climax: What overwhelming disaster does the hero face?

You will notice Situation and Opposition equate to #2 (the hero is caused to want something, and is not able to just take it), and Objective is #3.

Now, a climax has a requirement to give a proper payoff. It needs to be a choice that reveals something about the hero. The hero must have two very important values, and the villain must force the hero to sacrifice one for the other. He must make a decision that, no matter how he chooses, he will hate himself.

So, a good way to phrase SPOOC is:

  • Situation: When fate contrives to make Our Hero want something…
  • Protagonist: …Our Hero…
  • Objective: …sets out to get it by taking specific action. But will he succeed when…
  • Opposition: …a fascinating and nasty supervillain…
  • Choice: …forces him to choose between the two things he holds most dear?

How does this apply to Fate? Well, you use this story to create an Aspect. That Aspect will often come from the fateful choice in the climax.

Example:

  • Situation: When she runs out of food and money…
  • Protagonist: …superhero sidekick gone solo Cherry Bomb…
  • Objective: …sets out to get the scoop on an evil death cult, thereby securing a living as a paranormal blogger. But will she succeed when…
  • Opposition:  …the nefarious leader of the cult…
  • Choice: …gives her the choice of watching her best friend die in a ritual that will probably summon Yog Sothoth, or else taking their place as a more potent sacrifice that will definitely summon Yog Sothoth?

Now, there is a lot of material that would make for good aspects here if we’re playing Fate.

Since this is in the character’s background, we have to assume that she escaped and the world didn’t end. From this, we could get aspects like…

  • Amy Hope: Paranormal Journalist Extraordinare
  • Yog Sothoth has it in for me.
  • Always sticking her nose where it’s not wanted.
  • High Quality Ritual Sacrifice

But the choice, ah… the choice has the most punch. Does she take the selfish way out and risk the world and refuse to switch places with the sacrifice? Does she take the pragmatic way out and refuse to switch because the world is more likely to survive if her mortal friend dies? Does she sacrifice herself because she will not let an innocent die in her place? Does she sacrifice herself because she can’t bear the thought of living in guilt over her friend’s death?

No matter which choice she makes, Cherry Bomb will be fundamentally transformed. Refined. Defined. Here are some possible aspects.

  • I will avenge you, Maria!
  • I’ll never let anyone else die.
  • Self-Sacrifice is Second Nature.

But wait! There’s more!

Once we know what choice Our Hero makes, we need to bring Our Hero to the brink of despair. The choice goes wrong. Even what he thought he’d accomplished, he failed to do. He is going to lose everything.

Cherry Bomb determines that she will not let her friend die… but she can’t let Yog Sothoth in either. Her last, best plan is to switch with her friend, but kill herself before the ritual is complete. Using her illusion powers, she hides one of her grenados on her person, lit and set to go off.

The cultists tie her up next to her friend. The cult leader laughs. “Did you really think I’d let her go? Two sacrifices is better than one!” He also takes the bomb right off her, unfooled by her illusion.

Then, we, the writers, figure out how to pull the hero’s nads out of the fire without being super-cheap.

As the ritual begins, otherworldly gates open, and monsters start to come through, Cherry Bomb’s friend notes something: the cult leader stuck the bomb in his pocket.

Using the last ounce of her power, Cherry Bomb sets off the grenade. The cult leader dies in pain, the ritual is interrupted, and the monsters turn on the cultists. Cherry Bomb’s friend is able to catch the knife that was about to slit her throat and cut herself and the superheroine free. Chaos ensues. The world is saved.

And that’s how you get yourself set up in Fate.

How to Fate, Episode 1

My local group started a game of Dresden Files RPG last night. There were a lot of people who were new to the system. Oh, some of them knew how skills and aspects and powers work, but almost none of them knew how to make characters.

So, let’s do this crazy thing. Fate, as I’ve written before, prioritizes drama over tactics. That means good character design techniques for Fate are the same as good character design techniques for writing. And indeed, I use it as a tool for such.

Here are the things you need to make your hero.*

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Drama Vs. Tactics

To quote Spock, “Logic is a wreath of beautiful flowers that smell bad.”*

There are three questions that constantly plague role playing games:

  1. Do the rules trump the story, or the story the rules?
  2. Is killing the villager really a Chaotic Neutral action?
  3. Who are we forcing to play the cleric?

Today, I’m going to talk about the first question. The answers to the others are “no” and “Why me?”

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